In a statement released this afternoon, the Atlantic Coast Conference announced that because HB 2 is “inconsistent” with the ACC’s values, it “will relocate all neutral site championships for the 2016-17 academic year.”
ACC Commissioner John Swofford explained in the statement:
“The ACC Council of Presidents made it clear that the core values of this league are of the utmost importance, and the opposition to any form of discrimination is paramount,” he said. “Today’s decision is one of principle, and while this decision is the right one, we recognize there will be individuals and communities that are supportive of our values as well as our championship sites that will be negatively affected. Hopefully, there will be opportunities beyond 2016-17 for North Carolina neutral sites to be awarded championships.”
The announcement affects planned championships in seven sports, including women’s basketball and men and women’s diving scheduled to take place in Greensboro in 2017. Greensboro has billed itself as an amateur sports haven in the past, including adopting the moniker “Tournament Town.”
Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan, who has been a vocal opponent of HB 2 and who heads the pro-LGBT Guilford Green Foundation, said she expected the decision but called it “unfortunate.”
“I would say that based on the NCAA’s decision yesterday, we knew this would be coming,” Vaughan said in a phone interview. “It’s unfortunate because Greensboro is a neutral site. It is a significant hit to the city of Greensboro, and I understand why the NCAA and the ACC made this decision, because they didn’t think it represented their values, but the city of Greensboro does.”
Vaughan rattled off a list of ways the city has proactively sought to be more inclusive, including non-discrimination ordinances and adding gender-neutral bathrooms at new city facilities.
“It’s a shame that we’re being negatively impacted by this decision when we have a history of inclusion, but I know they can’t make individual exceptions,” Vaughan said. “This bill [HB 2] is affecting us from an economic development standpoint, from an entertainment standpoint, from an athletic events standpoint. This is an issue that has become beyond our control and I think the legislature needs to recognize it. I really do think we’re in good shape right now [as a city], but we’ve just had the rug pulled out from us again.”
There are four ACC schools in North Carolina, including Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem as well as UNC, Duke and NC State.